London WC1 ULU

You can almost smell the devotion in the air...

You can almost smell the devotion in the air. Expectant, fiercely uncompromising and vaguely hysterical from the heat of a packed ULU, the obsessives are unwelcoming for those who beg to differ. The church of _s is an unforgiving place for those who worship elsewhere.

Tonight, the fanatics are having the time of their lives, for Elliott is playing a special solo acoustic set to be broadcast on He will sit motionless on a stool throughout and – oh, hear the devotees sigh happily – his genius will be polluted by neither band nor stage antics. It really is the stuff of dreams.

But don’t be put off by that. Don’t be phased by the whoops of glee every time Elliott ventures an intricate guitar solo, and try not to listen to the blokes who will inevitably stand behind you (as they do [I]NME[/I]) loudly discussing how they’ve been fans since 1994. Yawn. Let them deter you and you will truly miss something special.

For [I]any [/I]fan of stunning, old-fashioned songwriting, tonight’s stripped-down show is astounding. Remember seeing Kurt Cobain, huge blue eyes staring and that haunting, howling voice, singing the now legendary ‘Unplugged’ session? Remember hearing Jeff Buckley for the first time, the way his voice sounded like it belonged only to dreams? Without even the barest hint of exaggeration, that’s how tonight should be remembered.

Just like Nirvana before, it’s particularly affecting to see Elliott in such acoustic circumstances, an exact reconstruction of how these songs were born. The creator and his guitar alone (give or take a few hundred people). There’s nothing else to focus on: every word is heard, every emotion felt. At times it even feels as if we’re trespassing on Elliott‘s private time, as if these bittersweet love songs are too finely articulated, too keenly felt, to be for public consumption.

Incredibly, everything sounds twice as fragile here as on record. The whispering resignation of ‘Easy Way Out’ and the joyous, simple love of the moment expressed in ‘LA’ (both from Elliott‘s new album ‘Figure 8’) are typical gems. It feels a privilege to share them in such intimate circumstances, with Elliott staring unflinchingly ahead throughout. Maybe he’s immune to their effect now. But we’re only starting to understand what they can do.